Friday, December 28, 2007

The Elders - Wisdom for The Global Community

When the world was young humans lived in small groups and tribes. Each family looked to their elders and shamans to find solutions and solve conflicts. Populations grew, tribes expanded into communities, communities to towns, towns to cities, cities to countries. As we increased in numbers something interesting happened..instead of expanding our community responsibility and relying on a larger group of wise counsel, we contracted and isolated ourselves.

We do not know our neighbors. Our families are fractured, living hundreds of miles apart. Grandparents no longer play an integral role in education our young. For the most part we do not trust our political leaders. We feel isolated in a world of billions and inept at solving the problems of even our small circle of friends. This is especially true of industrialized nations like the USA.

In 1999 Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson decided to address the issue. They envisioned a new gathering of world leaders who would come together to guide and support the global village: leaders trusted in their homelands and free from political, military or economic pressures. The Elders only purpose - to ease suffering in three essential areas:

1) Offer a catalyst for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
2) Seek solutions to seemingly gridlocked global issues.
3) Share wisdom, reach out to a new generation of leaders and amplify the voices of good from all over the world.

Branson and Gabriel approached Desmond Tutu who enthusiastically helped to gather some of the most respected humanitarians and diplomats to form The Elders. At the launch ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa Tutu introduced the members. On the stage were Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machal, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando H. Cardoso, Li Zahoxing, Mary Robinson, Aung San Su Kyi, and Muhammad Yunus. Read each of their biographies on

Their first act as a group was to resurrect interest in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of this important document. Every country in the world has signed the declaration but few live up to all of its tenets. Now, we can all sign our names to the declaration, pledging to uphold the principles as individuals.

Since the launch of the project a group of the Elders visited Darfur - you can watch them as they travel around Sudan. The website is full of information about each member and the purpose of the group. They urge you to act and have gathered many resources for us to do so. They are also utilizing as a forum to share individual human rights stories from around the world. The Elders believe that once we see and hear we will no longer be able to ignore.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, said, "Part of the wisdom of the Elders is to remind the young of remind the world that we actually have universal values that are accepted by every government in the world and yet they are not being implemented."

Theirs (and ours) is a noble cause indeed.


Merlyn Trey Hunter said...

I had never even heard of this group before now! Thank you for sharing this!

Lisa McGlaun said...


You're welcome. I didn't know until last week. It's such a great thing. I wish I could be at the table when all the great people are gathered together. Just to drink in their wisdom would be such an awesome experience.

Best Wishes,

thewishfulwriter said...

Wow. I'd also never heard a thing about this incredible group of people banding together.

I've often thought how true it is that society's children are so cut off from their elders. they grow up feeling like they know everything, when it truth, all they know is what is trendy, who Paris Hilton is dating, and how to plug in a video game.

I'm glad someone is thinking about how to gleam all they can from some of the greatest minds out there.

on a more personal note, I hope you and your family had a very merry holiday!

big love, heather

Lisa McGlaun said...


I worry about that, too. There is so much of the progression of the future that depends on understanding the past. Kids are cut off from that these days.

Had a great Christmas! Thanks for asking. I hope you did, too!


Merlyn Trey Hunter said...

You absolutely right Lisa, kids ARE cut off from the past these days. I think History and Social Sciences in general are too oft neglected at least in the educational institutions.

And as far as the media...

Kids are just constantly getting blitzed and screamed at by ads for some new "extreme" this or that. It's like our kids' generation seems like its just being punted blindfolded headlong into this new century.

stu1211 said...

On a different note, I found this article listing the greenest cities in the US. This shows that municipalities care about climate change. I guess the general population cares about the environment and global warming. My score on their calculator was 400 but at least I am trying. Here is the link to the website that published the list of cites and where the carbon calculator can be found: The test took me like 5 minutes tops, and then maybe another 2 minutes to find the pledges I wanted. Pretty cool application.

Lisa McGlaun said...


I think it would help if our children lived in a multigenerational seems that they don't any more. I grew up around people of all ages..most of my relatives were several generations older than I was. Sometimes I resented having to hang out with the adults but when I look back on it the experience was probably invaluable to me.


Lisa McGlaun said...


Thanks for pointing out that site. It looks good. I'll spend some time figuring out my score.


Anna said...

Lisa you are so right in this articles, and thanks for the update. I don't know about others but I was always more attracted to elders than hanging out with my own age. Sometimes my mother used to pick on my tai-chi classes thinking that I do so crazy martial art stuff in the class, and I used to tell her, mom I am the youngest and the rest is over 50, and some in early 70s, lol. I find more wisdom, and I find I learn more to be better person. Thanks for the reminder Lisa, and if it is not too late, wishing you all the best in the new year 2008. Anna :)